Thank you to ‘Sue Frew’ who has kindly let us share her article she wrote for ‘Friends of Silvermine’ Newsletter. Sue and her 5 friends walked the trail in August 2014.
‘A few members of the hiking group, and friends, had the privilege of doing the Fynbos Trail in the Walker Bay area. I say privilege as the information we gleaned from this hike was more than one could ever retain in two days study!
We started our hike shortly after our arrival in Gansbaai on the Sunday afternoon. We were presented with a map and walked from the Gansbaai harbour area along the cliff for about 5 kilometres. We were entertained endlessly with the antics of the whales. They were very busy churning up the waters and blowing great gusts from their blowholes. Our first night was spent at Haus Giotto in Gansbaai, a delightful B&B.
The next morning our hike started for real. We were met by Sean at 8.45 and started where we had left off the evening before. Sean is a mine of information. There is a buchu present on the cliffs of Gansbaai that is only found here and at Cape Point, suggesting that, at some stage many years ago, land and not sea stretched between Cape Point and Gansbaai. He led us along the beautiful Klipgat Trail on De Kelders coastline overlooking Walker Bay. We had a cup of tea in Klipgat Cave which was home to folk dating back as far as 80 000 years. It is a well preserved cave and exudes history.
We left the cave and walked along the pristine beach finally heading off inland through a dune field. Sean was able to introduce information and stories all along the way. The idea that dunes ‘move’ seems ridiculous but they do, leaving crusts of compressed sand in their wake and encroaching on the long ago planted dune stabilisers. We walked through a mass of flowering Erica Irregularis, endemic to the Stanford and De Kelders area, before being collected for a scrumptious lunch at Growing the Future sustainable agriculture and life skills training college on Grootbos Nature Reserve. This is a wonderful project growing vegetables and harvesting honey used by the two lodges on Grootbos Nature Reserve. This project provides work and life skills for the local people.
Instead of having an afternoon nap in some gentle swaying hammocks attached to the shady trees, we embarked on our second leg of the day, The core Fynbos Trail.
Billy Robertson now became our guide. This was a 6.5 kilometres walk to our overnight accommodation. We were guided into and through an ancient Milkwood forest. The Steynsbos Milkwood forest is one of the only eight Milkwood forests of its type in the world. These Milkwood trees are old, gnarled and weather beaten. Billy too had so much information to share. After lunch the mist had come down so we were unable to see the views over Walker Bay. However the mist made hiking pleasant and cool. We hiked through masses of pincushions all in flower. The Cape sugar bird and orange breasted sunbirds, among many others, were busy flitting between the plants exhibiting their pollination methods so delightfully described by both Sean and Billy.
We arrived at our overnight accommodation exhausted but so content. We were fed delicious pizzas and fell into bed. We had covered some 17 kilometres.
The next day dawned cool and misty. We had a scrumptious breakfast, packed our bags to be transported to our final destination, and set out for another adventure. Our destination was Witkrans – the homestead of our host and hostess – Sean and Michelle Privett.
This day comprised of contrasts between forests, wetland Fynbos and limestone hills. We were served morning tea and coffee in a forest next to a waterfall before winding out and up the Grootberg.
We were surprised by a table – yes a table AND tablecloth – all laid out with our lunch in the middle of Stinkhoutsbos Forest! After lunch we had the opportunity of planting a tree alongside the river. We planted Milkwood, wild peach and Boegenhout trees. This is part of Flower Valley’s restoration of this beautiful forest partially destroyed by the fire of 2006.
Fire is essential to ‘motivate’ little seeds to grow. It is the stimulus which causes seeds to germinate. However when fires are too frequent or too hot (assisted by alien vegetation) they destroy rather than create.
Our final evening was spent in the company of our two guides and Michelle. We were treated to a wine tasting of Lomond wines and a delicious dinner. The accommodation was in large wooden chalets (originally from those taken down by Cape Nature at Kogelberg) consisting of three rooms each with two beds, two bathrooms, a lounge and well equipped kitchen. The chalets were warm and very welcoming.
We slept with the call of the nightjar echoing in the dark, after having walked 12 kilometres.
Our final morning dawned with a lazy breakfast and a later start. This time we were guided by Sean. The trail ‘winds along the lower slopes of the Witkransberg’ , finally entering the 24 hectare Grootbos Milkwood forest.
After approximately 6 kilometres our hike ended with a lunch at Grootbos Garden Lodge. My goodness we were offered a wonderful spread to end our hike. After lunch we were transported back to our cars. We were replete but all very sad that our hike had come to an end.
It is very difficult to put into words just how magnificent this hike was. Our two guides were so well informed and the many delightful stories related were all insightful.
We were left with a heightened awareness of the cycle of life and our unequivocal interdependence. The Fynbos Trail is not just a hike it is a life experience.’